I have been a Neil Diamond fan since his early days recording for the old Bang Label and 45’s of such hits as “Solitary Man,” “Cherry Cherry,” “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” and “Kentucky Woman” still reside in my record collection.
In 1972 I bought the original Hot August Night, followed by Hot August Night II in 1987. Now I have Hot August Night/NYC.
This DVD has a lot to recommend. It was filmed during his four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden during August of 2008. The sound and the visual quality are both excellent. He surrounds himself with a band complete with brass which fills in the sound and makes many of the performances very dynamic. He also uses background singers who provide great help to his vocals.
I have seen Neil Diamond in concert several times plus have a number of his live recordings and this may be his most consistent vocally. His voice may not be as strong as it was forty years ago but he controls it well and does not overreach. I have heard him when it was scratchy and sounding tired but that is not the case here.
The two-hour, twenty-six-song concert is a combination of the new and old with a few surprises. There is also a DVD bonus feature titled “Welcome Home Neil” where he returns to his old Brooklyn neighborhood.
“Holly Holy” gets the concert off to a good start with the use of the aforementioned brass. “Cherry Cherry,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “I Am…I Said” all are performed to a warm audience reaction. I’ve personally seen him at times totally ignores his band but here he allows them to shine a little on their own.
The inclusion of “Street Life” is an unusual but wise decision as it is one of the strongest tracks. “I’m A Believer,” which became a hit for The Monkees, is also resurrected. Throw in “Brooklyn Roads” and “Done Too Soon” and you have a nice selection of lesser-known tunes.
Appearing for the first time live are such songs as “Home Before Dark,” “Don’t Go There,” and “Man Of God,” all of which fit in nicely.
Rousing versions of “America” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” bring the concert to a satisfying conclusion.
One more bonus is included—a CD entitled Neil Diamond 10 Favorites—which supposedly consists of some of Neil’s favorite tunes. While there is nothing really new it is perfect for the car CD player.
As he nears the fifty-year mark in his career, Neil Diamond is who he is and Hot August Night/NYC presents him at his best, making for a nice retrospective of his long and illustrious career. It is a must for his fans.